Wednesday, October 6, 1999
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today announced a unique public-private partnership with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the battle against on-line child pornography. Developed in conjunction with the Texas Internet Service Provider Association (TISPA), the Attorney General today released guidelines which outline the steps an ISP can take in referring suspected child pornography to the Attorney General's office. These guidelines are based on a current, successful agreement with AOL. Attorney General Cornyn has led the effort to form this partnership with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which is being touted as a national model.
"We have a common goal-to get child pornography off the Internet. These guidelines serve the state's interests in getting these criminals off the Internet, and the ISPs receive the benefits of customer loyalty in being family friendly. It is truly a win-win situation, and I hope that other ISPs will join us," said Attorney General Cornyn.
The TISPA guidelines were based upon the Attorney General's successful AOL partnership. AOL was approached by the Attorney General's office in 1998 to establish a process to refer their customer's complaints of child pornography. The Attorney General's office has received approximately 80 referrals from AOL.
"Protecting the security and safety of our members is a top priority at America Online," said Don Colcolough, Senior Manager for Network Security and Investigations at America Online. "We have a zero tolerance for illegal behavior on the service, and we work closely with law enforcement agencies to make sure that member complaints are quickly referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency. This program is an outstanding example of the kind of public-private partnership that can bring criminals to justice while protecting users' privacy and security."
The Attorney General's office and TISPA have been working since June to develop guidelines for child pornography referrals. The guidelines describe the chain of events which occurs when the ISP receives information which indicates the existence of suspected child pornography. The information is sent to the Attorney General's office for evaluation and possibly investigation and prosecution.
"TISPA members are concerned both by the need to fight child pornography on the Internet and by the need to protect our customer's privacy. We feel that these guidelines outline a process that expedites the enforcement of child pornography laws while ensuring that our
customers' information is kept private to the extent guaranteed by law. We thereforeencourage all Texas ISPs to adopt this procedure for handling cases of suspected child pornography," said Chad Kissinger, President of TISPA and CEO of Onramp Access.
Interliant, an Application Service Provider and Web Hosting company and a member of TISPA helped develop the guidelines. "The Internet must not become a safe haven for child pornographers. With these guidelines, ISPs now have a streamlined process for cooperating with law enforcement to make sure that this does not happen," said Ed Cavazos, Senior VP of Legal and Business Affairs, Interliant.
The Attorney General's Internet Child Pornography Unit began with a grant from the Governor's office in November, 1998. The unit is comprised of one attorney and two investigators. Although it is new, the Unit already has one guilty plea in Washington County and a no contest plea in Swisher County. They are currently set for trial in Montague County on October 19 and in Jefferson County on November 15. The Unit is currently assisting six other counties in the investigation of individuals suspected of possessing child pornography.
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